Port Terminates Lease with Rail Network Operator

The Port of Benton, located in south-central Washington, has terminated its lease with the Tri-City Railroad Company as operator of the port’s Southern Connection rail network. The 16-mile rail line runs between Center Parkway in Kennewick and Horn Rapids Road in north Richland.

The termination, revealed in late June, follows a ruling from Benton County Superior Court in May that found Tri-City was in default of its lease with the port because the company had not properly maintained the rail system.

A final settlement agreement establishing how the transition would occur became effective June 17, and as a result, the port began assessing existing tenancies at the Stevens Drive property and started negotiating new leases ahead of becoming the primary lessor on Aug. 1.

As of late June, the port was establishing a contract with rail infrastructure construction and maintenance corporation RailWorks to coordinate rail inspections and maintenance on the line until a new line operator is secured. Additionally, Newport, Wash.-based contractor Advance Signal & Contracting has taken over signal maintenance and inspection.

Although the Port of Benton owns the rail and trackage commonly known as the Southern Connection, in practice, the port is not considered a railroad, and as such, has said that it isn’t taking over operations of the port trackage.